Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 25.07.2011

Review for Kirby

With the series set to turn 20 next year, looking back on the whole Kirby series reveals how far the little pink character has come. Did you know that he was not even supposed to be the hero of the first game, and that Kirby was just a dummy character used as a placeholder until the designers came up with a better design for the hero? Kirby actually is not even pink at all in the first adventure, Kirby's Dream Land, and would not become so until appearing in on the 8-bit NES, in the colourful Kirby's Adventure. The whole gameplay formula that has become a staple in the series has evolved a lot since the series’ inception on the Game Boy in 1992. Now that Nintendo has re-released the first episode in the long-running franchise on the 3DS Virtual Console, it is time Cubed3 checked out how this ancestor holds up nowadays compared to its descendants.

As soon as the music starts on the title screen of Kirby’s Dream Land, it is obvious players are in for an extremely fun adventure. Nearly every track from this first episode has been remade over and over again as new episodes have been released, so that even to those who started playing the series much further down the line, the soundtrack will sound familiar. Jun Ishikawa, composer on Kirby's Dream Land, did an awesome job of accompanying Kirby's journey through Dream Land to defeat King Dedede with fantastic music. The Dream Landers’ food and Sparkling Stars (that helps them get food) were stolen by Dedede and his gang of thieves, so Kirby has to go and defeat him and bring back peace to Dream Land.

After pressing start, players are greeted with what at first seems like a pretty straightforward platform title from the days of old. Kirby plays like most games of that ilk, but with a few exceptions in terms of gameplay. Kirby can suck up surrounding enemies and some objects, and spit them out to hurt other enemies and destroy some obstacles. His vacuum power also lets him fill his belly with air, making him lighter and giving the ability to fly through the air indefinitely. Additionally, gobbling up air and letting it go makes him spit a small air pellet that can kill weaker enemies, yet this move is inefficient against bosses. Players who played any of the more recent games in the franchise may wonder about the “copy” ability that made Kirby famous. Well, it was nowhere to be found way back then, although some hints of its future arrival can be found, like swallowing a microphone and then spitting it out making Kirby shout through it and kill everything on screen.

Screenshot for Kirby's Dream Land on Game Boy

Kirby can touch some special items that give him temporary super powers, though, rather like Mario using a star. The lollipop making him invincible is present and correct, a plate of chilli gives him the ability to shoot out an indefinite amount of fireballs from his mouth for a short time, a bomb will blast through all oncoming enemies, and so on...There are not too many of them, and they are scarce, but they certainly help varying the action somewhat. All this action is accompanied by sound effects that equal the greatness of the music, screaming “classic” through and through.

The environments, whilst obviously not as colourful as in later episodes, being a monochrome Game Boy game, show a nice level of detail for the hardware. The best part by far is Kirby's incredible animation, with loads of expressions for such a simple character, as well as the short cut-scenes showing him doing all kinds crazy things in different situations. The charm radiating from Kirby’s Dream Land is timeless and travelling through, sucking up enemies, bouncing and flying around is highly enjoyable.

The levels are not particularly long and take just a couple minutes to beat with a boss at the end of each. However, that brings us to the main problem of Kirby's Dream Land. It is short, very short. It is not a very challenging game to begin with, but there are only five levels to play in one sitting (though the quick save feature of the 3DS Virtual Console helps alleviate that). The last one is more of a boss rush where you fight against all the previously encountered big villains. The adventure lasts about half an hour for mildly skilled players. Then there is the incentive of activating the extra mode via a special button input on the title screen (revealed after the credits roll) and playing it over with an increased level of difficulty. This may make the game last a bit longer, but not much more than an hour or so. Furthermore, another special button sequence lets the player access a hidden configuration menu and listen to a sound test as well as limiting Kirby's maximum life points (down to one-hit kills) and how many lives he starts with. Altogether, though, this still barely justifies that it gets sold the same price as other longer games like Donkey Kong on the 3DS Virtual Console.

Screenshot for Kirby's Dream Land on Game Boy

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Being at the origin of a much loved series, Kirby’s Dream Land is sure to appeal to long-term fans who never played this particular episode before. However, it is hard to recommend purchasing the game at the price Nintendo asks for it on the 3DS Virtual Console. If you own any hardware capable of running the actual game cartridge, you are better off tracking it down on online shops or in yard sales at about the same price as its dematerialised version, if not less. That way you get to own a possible future collectible item for future generations of Kirby fans. Kirby’s Dream Land is a common game to find and loose cartridges of it usually sell at low prices. Spring Breeze, a part of Kirby Super Star for the Super NES (available on the Wii Virtual Console) and Kirby Super Star Ultra (available on Nintendo DS), is essentially a remake of Kirby's Dream Land, but bundled with much more content making for a far more valuable package and with Kirby's “copy” ability injected in it. This is an excellent alternative to the expensive deal of the 3DS VC, but admittedly it will not have the same Game Boy retro vibe. All that being said, Kirby's Dream Land is still a very fun and lovely game, a definite cult-classic that any gamer and Kirby fan should play, but not without knowing what to expect from it before they spend their money. Bottom line, it is excellent, but short and not as refined as the rest of the series, so you know what to expect.


HAL Laboratory




2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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